Jason Tompkins takes the bus to work at the Catalyst Ranch on West Randolph Street, arriving daily at about 6 a.m.
His morning tasks including preparing the continental breakfast spread and preparing for meetings that might be held on site, often starting at about 8 a.m.
Then he might say a quick hello to James Brownor at least the Brown doll that sings his fabled song "I Feel Good." It dances, too.
Tompkins smiles just mentioning the doll, perhaps his favorite on-site tchochke.
After all, the Catalyst Ranch is a one-of-a-kind, 15,000 square-foot facility, filled with years-past relics, certain to entertain. The Catalyst Ranch is home to countless annual offsite meetings for area businesses, including Fortune 500 companies, ideal for training seminars, strategic planning meetings, trade conferences, association meetings, workshops, consumer market research/focus groups, staff retreats, board meetings, sales meetings, brainstorming sessions and morein a vintage, time warp-like setting.
"The Catalyst Ranch, which opened in the spring of 2002, is a place that ignites the imagination. Innovative thought, production," said Tompkins, who has worked there for almost two years.
The facility also has been home to weddings, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, and, arguably, the first civil-unions held in Illinois in 2011starting at 12:01 a.m. June 1. Catalyst Ranch played host to a contest last year for same-sex couples, ultimately giving six couples the mega-event of their lives.
"It's just a fun place to work, a fun idea," Tompkins said.
As the Catalyst Ranch boasts on its website, it is the perfect spot to "Refresh your team. Energize them. Teach them how to infuse their daily lives with innovation. Put a spring in their stepno pogo stick necessary."
Tompkins is one of 10 full-time employees, and one of two who are openly gay, he said.
"Everyone who works here is really creative," he said, "and it is very gay-friendly. There's a very laid-back atmosphere, and [ employees ] can really express their own style."
Tompkins also is very active with Gender JUST which, according to its website, "is a member-led, multi-generational and multi-racial grassroots organization of LGBTQA ( lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & allied ) young people, people of color, and grassroots folks developing leadership and building power through organizing."
"I guess I'm just a homo geek; I read a lot and love being at home. I get enough excitement for me at work [ on a daily basis ] ," said Tompkins, who lives with three drag queens and is a member of a new, radical queer book club.
St. Louis; has lived in Chicago since July 2008
Single and queer, as he prefers to identify
Shift manager, Catalyst Ranch
Cinema, reading memoirs, history
Favorite TV show
Favorite local bar
Favorite local restaurant